By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Davis claims that for four years, East Orange police brass denied him a promotion partly because he has spoken out against a pattern of civil rights violations in police departments nationwide. In 1997, then chief Harry Harmon, who is black, allegedly tried to muzzle Davis, who had been writing a scathing series of articles about alleged police misconduct entitled "Breaking the Blue Code of Silence" in the weekly Citizen.
Davis had charged that Harmon "ordered" Captain Peter Biggiani to pressure him to reveal the sources for his exposés. In a July 2, 1997, memo to Biggiani, Davis charged that targeting him was "an attempt by this agency to harass me and circumvent [a judge's] court order restraining any acts of retaliation."
Lieutenant Kevin Hopkins, a spokesman for the East Orange Police Department, says he will look into Davis's allegation. Harmon, who is no longer with the department, could not be reached for comment.
In the memo, Davis noted that his role as regional president of the National Black Police Association made him more "aware of many abuses in law enforcement around the country." His sources, Davis taunted, are well known to the department. "Regarding racist cops, my [source] is Mark Furhman from the Los Angeles PD, drug-using cops, and other [abusers] in law enforcement," he wrote. "My references [include] officers in the NYPD, and Michael Dowd's testimony before the Mollen Commission."
Davis suggested that the department was not interested in credible sources such as cops who identified themselves to internal affairs after witnessing the confrontation between himself and Officer Tucker.
Tension had been mounting between Davis and Tucker after Davis injected himself into a dispute with a prisoner.
In a report to internal affairs, Davis said that on October 23, 1996, while in the lobby of the East Orange Municipal Courthouse, he was distracted by angry banter between Officer William Phillips and the prisoner, Michael Grudger. He said he asked both the officer and the prisoner "to quiet down" but their voices grew louder.
"Eventually . . . Officer Victor Tucker grabbed Mr. Grudger from behind and attempted to pull him from the lobby. . . . ," Davis claimed. "The citizen repeatedly told Officer Tucker that he did not want to leave the building. Officer Phillips grabbed Officer Tucker and advised him to release Mr. Grudger. Officer Tucker eventually complied and Officer Phillips escorted Tucker out of the building."
Davis said that after he reported Tucker's alleged misconduct to internal affairs, Tucker began to harass him. On June 3, 1997, they came face to face at a packed assembly room at police headquarters. "Since you are such a brother, maybe you will give a copy of the reports that you filed on me," Davis quoted Tucker as saying in a complaint he submitted shortly after the incident.
When Davis told Tucker he could get copies from internal affairs, "the detective became irate, loud, and boisterous with me. He began to curse and shout that he was going to 'kick my ass,' that I 'wasn't shit.' " During the altercation, Davis said that he feared Tucker would carry out his threat to disarm him of his gun and shove it up his rectum.
At least three three other officers backed up Davis's version in writing.
In his statement, Officer Gary Griffin said Tucker was the aggressor. "Detective Tucker used many obscenities [such as] 'You ain't shit.' Detective Tucker then [challenged] Officer Davis to meet him at a private place to confront him. Officer Davis responded, 'If you're not guilty, you'll win in court.' "
Davis's remark infuriated Tucker, who, according to Griffin, "had to be physically removed by Officer Charles Hall and others." Tucker, Griffin added, "returned an additional three times to confront Officer Davis. Each time he had to be physically removed by at least two officers." In their last encounter, Griffin recalled, Tucker told Davis that although he was unarmed, that he had "no cuffs and no gun," he would take Davis's own gun and sodomize him with it.
"Officer Tucker was hostile in his mannerism, both vocally and physically, commissioning Officer Davis to step outside," Hall said in his statement. "The two officers exchanged words several times but nothing physical came about. There were several officers in the assembly room at the time along with Sergeant LeGates and Lieutenant Gloria Oliver."
Grudger and Tucker eventually dropped charges against each other. But Tucker was later convicted of "making terroristic threats" against Davis, a clerk at the East Orange Municipal Court confirms. He was originally fined $500, but that was suspended and he wound up paying $127. "Although he was found guilty, the department did nothing to him because it was covering for him," Davis charges.
A law-enforcement insider, who is familiar with the former case against Tucker, told the Voice, "it would seem that an administrative hearing would have followed after a conviction like that. There was none. You could infer from that that somebody was protecting someone."
Additional reporting: Karen Mahabir